10 to the End: Closing out the year with Christ

Good morning! Tomorrow begins a new series of devotionals! 10 posts to help us all reflect on this year and prepare for the next. These posts will also lead up to celebrating 1 whole year of Christian Control Freak! Despite some challenges and setbacks, It has been a great year for the blog and it’s because of all of our followers. Please join us as we close this year out, begin a new one, and celebrate a year of devotion and inspiration.

Lastly, be on the lookout for a very special announcement and a contest! Very exciting things coming your way! So so grateful for your readership!

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Help Wanted

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I woke up feeling slightly disoriented. I had a feeling like I had forgotten something or that I needed to be rushing to do something. Neither of those things were true but no matter how many times I said to myself “You’re ok” I kept feeling as if I wasn’t so I cried. But I was still getting dressed for work. I cried in the shower, I cried brushing my teeth, I cried getting dressed. I took small breaks but this was the remainder of the day that day and it wasn’t the first time I had felt this way. The crying was how I coped. The pressure of nervous energy I felt in my chest and hands, I had taught myself to release in deep sobs. I was ok with that.

Unfortunately, this carried on much longer than I had experienced in the past this time. That one day turned into a week of deep sobbing. A week of barely eating. A week of not answering my phone because “How are you?” and “What’s wrong?” from people who knew exactly when to ask was too difficult. I had called out of work for a day because I couldn’t collect myself long enough to be in public. My dog was quiet and attentive. My parents and sister was concerned. My best friend offered to drive a few hours to sit with me. Although there were so many people who obviously cared about me, I was still very embarrassed to be falling apart without what I would consider “good” reason. Feeling that way was unfair to myself and I would later realize disobedient to God.

As a member of the Christian faith, I can’t recall hearing much about seeking professional help with mental and emotional disorders in church settings. Depression was supposed to be prayed away, anxiety was sinful because the bible says don’t worry, and many other conditions were overlooked. Thankfully I have a mother who offers to pray for me but urged me to talk to a doctor in the very next breath. She reminded me that I don’t have to feel that way by myself, that there are people trained to help with this kind of thing and I should see someone as soon as possible. The craziest thing is, I knew this. I don’t always want to take medicine but I am fully aware that Doctors and mental health professionals are the answer to the prayers we’ve been praying for comfort during times like the one I was having. But part of me was still just very embarrassed to talk to someone. What would I say? I didn’t even know why I was sad or what brought on the anxious feelings. Then there was the part of me that desires complete control over my daily routine. What kind of person am I that I’ve let sadness interrupt that? What couldn’t I just get it together and handle my business? I needed help but I didn’t want help because I always believed a person like me shouldn’t need anything from anyone and that was my problem.

“Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be open unto you.”

Matthew 7:7

The bible very clearly says to ask, seek and knock. All actions that require some participation. I asked, with prayer but I hadn’t actually sought out any of the solutions to my problems. I asked God what to do but when God sent me people to tell me to seek help, I didn’t and felt ashamed of doing so and it’s mainly because, although I knew I needed help, I didn’t want to need help. There’s nothing about our faith that encourages us to be lone islands or that I should shoulder the weight of everything in my life alone. So by refusing to seek the help that is available I was being disobedient.

Soon after I had this revelation, I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor in my area. She’s a wonderful Caribbean woman who, though she isn’t a mental health professional, still asked questions about my mental health during my general wellness check, listened to my concerns, hugged me and recommended me to some counselors in the area. Know I’m in the knocking phase. I’m researching her recommendations and making contact to get the help I need and that I have grown to actually WANT.

I’m sharing this to encourage us to talk more about seeking help for mental and emotional issues as part of having a healthy faith. I’m sharing this to encourage anyone who may be feeling embarrassed about needing this kind of help. It’s ok and you deserve whatever will help to improve your overall help. Lastly, I’m sharing this as proof to myself that I recognize I don’t have to keep this to myself and deal with this alone. I know that sharing this may bring judgement but I can’t worry about it. I want help for myself and for anyone else reading this who may need it also.

As fall approaches, some of us may begin to notice we are emotionally affected by the change in temperature and fewer hours of sunlight. Or maybe you haven’t really paid close attention to it but when you start to think about it, you are a bit less perky and sometimes more irritable than  you may have been during the warmer months. I am not a medical professional and cannot diagnose anyone but if your change in mood is interrupting your daily routine, you may want to consult a medical professional to see if you identify with some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other conditions that may make it difficult to function in your daily life.

Pray for the Place Where You Stand

Pray where you

A lot of us say we have a plan. We say we have goals in mind and we’re doing everything we can to reach these goals. We say we have plans and goals but what we really mean is that we have an idea of how our life is supposed to pan out and if anything outside of what we expected happens we won’t know how to handle it EVEN if that same goal is still attainable.

When I say “we” I of course mean myself. When I have a plan for anything, it includes my expectations of how this plan should look as I’m working toward the end goal. Sometimes when I end up in a place along the journey that I never expected or planned for, instead of trusting that God is still going to bring the plan placed on my heart to fruition, I get frustrated because this part of it was never in my plans. My frustration tends to be what throws off my plan. I see where I want to be and I see the date by which I had planned to be there and then I see where I am. Instead of rising to the occasion and just pressing forward right away, I often spend time sulking over the fact that this is never what I had planned.

In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah is writing to God’s people while they are in exile in Babylon. They are in a place they never planned to be but God uses Jeremiah to send them some encouragement. Although they are in a foreign land God tells them, through Jeremiah, to basically make themselves comfortable. To operate in the way they would if this was their own land and to continue living out their lives for God because God knows what he’s doing. I’ve included a link to the entire passage but there are two verses that particularly blessed me.

Jeremiah 29:7

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will proser.

If you’ve ever found yourself having to live in a place you never imagined you’d need to live, or take on a job at a place you never desired to work this verse will get you right together. Sometimes we hate these setbacks so much we totally disregard them and treat them with minimal respect. Right here in this passage God says, wherever you are, whether you meant to be there or not, you need to be praying for that place to prosper because you’re there and if that place prospers, so will you. So let’s not huff and puff about how much we hate the place or the job. Instead, do it well, take care of it, and pray for it to prosper at your hands so that God can bless you.

The second verse that stood out is

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know that plans I have for you,” Declares the LORD “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This is a blessing for obvious reasons. It’s so encouraging to know that even if you find yourself in a place of discomfort, you can always trust that God has your best interest at heart. God’s true desire is to bless us so that we are able to tell others about it. Regardless of where you are currently, our future is important to God and God wants us to find hope in that.

So my challenge for us today is to look at where you are and know that God is still able to bless you right in the place where you never intended to be. Not only is God able to bless, God WANTS to do so. So let’s check our attitudes about it and start helping God cultivate the very blessings we wish to see right where we are. Stand in the confidence that God has a plan for what’s going on and pray for the place where you stand that just so happened to be outside of your plan.

Get Some Rest

get some rest

Hey you. Yes you. The one who is always available to help. The one who always assumes a leadership role. The one who is periodically on the verge of burning out but feels bad about taking time off. God wants you to sit down somewhere.

Church culture often reminds us that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” It is quite common for us to experience an abundance of work being done by a handful of people. Being overwhelmed for the work of the Kingdom is to be expected. If you have grown up in a Church setting, or if you’re just a common Type A person, we often grow accustomed to the feeling of being overwhelmed by tasks. So much so, that we sometimes don’t feel validated in the work that we’re doing unless we’re stressed out and on the brink of nervous breakdown.

Some would have us believe that feeling of having too much on your plate is a feeling we should strive toward. That if there’s work to do and it must get done, YOU must be the one to do it and you must do it without complaint even to the point that it can be frowned upon to request a moment of solitude. While it is true that there will always be work to do and that there will always seem to be a shortage of people doing it, the idea that we should always be eager to take on more than we may be able to bear can be dangerous to our mental and physical health and, quite frankly, is not what is pleasing to God.

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31

The above verse is taken from a text in which Jesus and the disciples had been traveling and working hard to win souls for Christ. Jesus saw the work they were all doing and noticed that they were overwhelmed so he tells them to go take some quiet time to rest. As simple as that is, this is what is pleasing to God. We all have so much work to do and the work will always need to be done by someone. While it is certainly God’s will that we do the work and that we excited about it, we are only human and humans get tired. We should never be ashamed to admit that we may have overextended ourselves and need a moment to recharge.

My prayer for all of us is that we commit to the following things:

  1. Be mindful of our minds and bodies when they tell us we need a break.
  2. Say no and be intentional about it. You don’t always have to be responsible for every single task available. If you feel like you will not be able to handle too many tasks, you can decline a few responsibilities to save your sanity.
  3. Hold your brothers and sisters accountable. When you see that someone you love has a lot on their plate, offer to help when you can so that they can take time to themselves and help them to feel good about doing so.
  4. Get some rest. Whether it be taking a vacation to enjoy your friends or family, or taking quiet time alone, we all need time to replenish ourselves after we have give time and service to others.

Just as Jesus was divine he was also human. If he had to take time to rest, so should you.

 

Shift Your Focus

Shift Your Focus and

According to Dr. D. W. Johnston, a common characteristic of people who identify with a Type A behavioral pattern is “They [we] strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.” This particularly resonates with me. I’m always trying to accomplish something but rarely am I able to enjoy the accomplishments because I’m always thinking about the next thing I want to do. Where this has gotten me in trouble in my walk with Christ is that I tend to center my own personal wants more than anything.

The biggest hang up here in my walk with Christ has been the motivation behind my striving for goals and accomplishments. If I’m not careful, I’ll center myself in my ambition, meaning I’m making decisions and advancements strictly based on how I feel about pursuing them and how they will improve my general lifestyle. It isn’t wrong to want better for yourself, but if you’re claiming to be a person after the heart of Jesus, you can’t be your primary driving force.

“Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

If I base my ambition on strictly how others will receive me once I’ve accomplished something, I will never be satisfied. Seeking approval from others will always leave you empty. People are very hard to please and their support is as wavering as wind. So instead, focus on the blessing that can come from your actions. When you do whatever it is that you are called to do, will someone be blessed by what they’re seeing you do? Can someone be blessed by the outcome of the goals you’ve set for yourself?

Whether you are able to bless someone with material things or encouragement to continue through life trusting in God, if you are showing God to be present in your life you are succeeding even when it may appear to others that you are failing at things that are of Earthly importance. When it becomes difficult to find joy in the progress toward your goals and the process seems to bring disappointment, remember to rejoice in the simple fact that someone will see your life, your actions, your successes and your failures and be blessed by your journey.

Pause at moments along the way and celebrate what God is doing in your life. Even when you can’t tell exactly what God is doing, God is never doing nothing and everything always has a purpose. The challenge is to shift your focus from the importance of your own abilities and success to viewing your abilities and successes as tools toward pointing to God’s greatness in your life and you can never fail.

Out on a Limb

 

August 8, 2016 I officially moved from my home town of Louisville, Kentucky to Leesburg, Florida. It was both exciting and scary. The move was quite sudden, but an opportunity presented itself so I decided to trust God and by Gut and just GO. After reflecting on my first year here I thought I should share some of the things I learned, in hopes that it would inspire someone who may be considering making some kind of leap of faith. My advice is, get with God and JUST DO IT! I hope this video blesses you!

A Heart’s Desire

What Does Your Heart Desire-

Few things compare to the feeling of praying for something and even putting forth effort to work toward it, only to have it fall through. You pray, you work, you claim it, you move forward as if it’s already yours and eventually you’re deflated when that thing doesn’t come to pass or doesn’t turn out the way you wanted. Then you spend days and nights asking God if this is some cruel joke. Pleading with God to tell you why you weren’t allowed to have this one thing you really wanted and that you worked so hard toward.

As Christians, many of us are taught that whatever we ask God, if we ask it in Jesus’ name it will be given to us. We’re essentially taught that God is here to provide for us so the formula goes, tell God what you want and God will give it because he loves us and that’s what he’s here for. Although, it is true that God is our provider and that God loves us and wants us to be happy, it is also true that God is the authority. God isn’t a genie whose sole purpose is to pacify us by giving us everything we want but that’s sometimes how we treat God.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

We often hear an abbreviated version of the above verse to support the idea that God is here to please us. But “God will give you the desires of your heart” is only half the scripture and it comes with a condition. The verse begins by telling us to take delight in the LORD. That doesn’t simply mean to be happy about Jesus. It means to get to know Jesus and to be excited about who Jesus is in your life. Get happy about the fact that Jesus is LORD over your life.

LORD is an Old English term used to refer to someone who had power and authority over land and the people who worked on it. Jesus being LORD of our life means that he has power and authority to not only give us what we want, but to decide what we should have. As control freaks, this sounds like a bad deal. What’s the point of being able to ask things of someone who is all powerful if they can just not give you what you asked for? I want what I want, when I want it. The good news is that Jesus loves us and someone who truly loves you only wants what is best for you. Jesus has the power to give you the desires of your heart but the desires of your heart need to be in line with what is best for you.

Not only do we ask God for what’s on our hearts, we first have to open ourselves to allow God to literally place desires in our hearts. To replace our selfish desires with ones that serve our best interests as it relates to our purpose.  So, when asking for anything, the first thing we need to ask is what the LORD desires for us. The closer we can get to Jesus, learning what our purpose is and what kinds of people, places, and things support that is the first step to receiving the desires of your heart.

So when we are disappointed not to have received what we asked for, ask “was that person, place, or thing in my best interest? Is it something that would help elevate me in my purpose?” Sometimes the answer to that is a clear “no.” Other times, maybe what we asked wasn’t anything bad, it just wasn’t what God would have for us. But you can always trust that if God has our best interest at heart, for every “no” there is a yes that is greater than what we would have asked for.

The challenge today is before we ask God for a specific thing, ask God to enter our hearts and remove what’s contrary to who God is in our lives. Then we will be able to delight in the LORD and he will give us the desires of our hearts.

God is: Chasing After You

I once listened to a Christian comedian talk about his understanding of his relationship with God. I wish I could remember his name, but his message is something I will never forget. He talked about how he had gone many paths in life but everything he had ever done eventually lead him exactly where he needed to be. He said that God’s love, grace and mercy are like our GPS. When you’re using a GPS and it is giving you turn by turn directions, when you happen to take a wrong turn the GPS doesn’t just turn off and quit trying to direct you. Instead, it sees what you’ve done and immediately begins rerouting to take you where it originally intended for you to go, just using a different route now that we’re a little of course.  He said he believed that though he hasn’t always gone where God would have wanted him to go, he was always headed toward his purpose because God’s love, grace, and mercy are perfect and were always leading him there.

Honestly, this post could end there. Imagining a love that will always lead you toward what’s best for you is enough to be excited about. But to take it a step further, I recently was listening to a worship song called “Reckless Love” that took this to another level. The Chorus says

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

The later part of the lyrics is in reference to Luke 15:4 which says “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” to basically say that each of us is valuable enough to God that God would look for us when we are lost. So not only is God guiding and directing us, God is chasing us down when we’re too lost to even know we need guidance.

As people who like to control every aspect of our lives, we have to admit that we sometimes get ourselves in over our heads. We have a period when it looks like everything is going according to our plan and we often neglect our relationship with God and start to do our own thing, only to realize we don’t have full control and things were much better when we were doing them with God. The idea that God sees this and doesn’t leave us hanging to just figure it out on our own is a true example of selfless love. Of course God sees what we do and knows that we have a tendency to get beside ourselves and abandon our relationship. But thankfully God is not like us and doesn’t hold that over our heads. Instead, he’s chasing us down, never leaving us, sticking right with us until we’ve found sense enough to turn around and acknowledge him in our lives.

The challenge today is to be sure you’re beginning and ending your day with God. Include God in all your plans for the present and future. Allow God’s purpose to lead and guide you even in your daily life so that you stick close and are careful not to abandon the relationship. God has already shown us that he will never leave us and continue to chase us until we’re ready to have him. But let’s make a conscious effort to stay close.

Lessons in a Jar

You Are enough

We frequently pray prayers that we don’t realize we’re praying. We see things in other people and our hearts pray “Why can’t I be that way?” Or “Why am I not able to do those things?” The vulnerability in feeling inadequate by comparison takes these earnest prayers from our hearts to God’s ears and if you listen, God will answer them in the most amazing ways.

Recently, I was standing in my kitchen after a frustrating week. It was only Tuesday but I felt like the week had beat me up enough for it to be Thursday. I was having the kind of week that made every single little thing irritating. The control freak in me had tried all week (two days) to make sure that things would improve. I kept trying to stay positive and to rearrange my surroundings to work in my favor, but I was failing and it felt like I kept being reminded that all my attempts to succeed were failing. On this particular Tuesday, all I wanted to do, was come home, cook the meal I had planned to cook, eat, relax and hopefully recover enough to do it all over again tomorrow. But of course, that was too much to ask on this particular Tuesday.

I was at a point, emotionally, that I was just barely holding it together and I knew the smallest disappointment would have been the last straw and I would inevitably crumble under the weight in a full dramatic performance, as is typical for me at least once a month. That last straw happened to be in a jar. There I was, standing in my kitchen attempting to cook. I was almost finished but needed a jar of sauce to complete my dish. I reached into the refrigerator and grabbed what I needed. I placed my right hand on the lid of the jar and attempted to twist it off but it wouldn’t budge. I tried twice more and it only made my hand hurt. I considered eating without the sauce but that didn’t seem fair. Nothing had gone my way all week (on a Tuesday) and I thought the least the universe would allow me, should be to enjoy my food the way I wanted to eat it. But here I am pacing my kitchen floor, after smacking the bottom of the jar, after placing a towel over the lid for traction, after shaking it up and down for whatever reason, trying to figure out why I can’t open this jar.

I sat the jar down in frustration, rubbing my temples and asking what else I hadn’t tried. Should I ask a neighbor for help? No, because if I talk to someone, I’ll cry and I don’t need these people thinking I’m crazy. I had opened the jar before, why is it so difficult today of all days? Was this jar a sign that moving away from home was a terrible idea and I actually can’t do all this by myself? This is how dramatic I was being. In a last ditch effort, I tried something I hadn’t tried. Something that didn’t even make sense to me. I picked the bottle up with my right hand and grabbed the lid with my left hand. I’m not left handed at all. There’s no real reason my left hand should be more capable of opening this jar than my right because I don’t use it, but I have this other hand I haven’t tried so I’m going to try it. Sure enough, with one firm squeeze and twist, POP! The top came off and I got my lesson.

I had spent the last few days wondering why my gifts and talents weren’t producing in the same ways my peers’ were. I was looking at friends and family thinking, well what are they doing that I’m not doing? What do they have that I don’t have? And with a jar and my left hand, God told me to worry about myself. I may not have all of the resources I think I need, but have I valued ones I have enough to use them to their full potential?

Many times, we look at others and think we don’t have enough or that we ourselves are not enough for the task that we are being called to. Meanwhile, God is saying to us,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Your gifts, talents, resources, etc may be different from someone else’s but I’m the same God to them as I am to you. If I’ve given you a vision, I have also given you the provisions. You’ve exhausted your right hand, so try your left. You’re not any less capable or adequate than anyone else. Use and strengthen what you already have while you have it and whatever else you think you need will fall into place. God would not send you on a mission you are incapable of accomplishing and that is simply because God is incapable of failing a work God has initiated. Whatever the task, whatever the goal, whatever the unopened jar, never underestimate what you’ve already been given.

A Presentation

Holy & Acceptable

One of my biggest pet peeves is to give someone detailed instructions and they still complete the task incorrectly. I understand communication very well, so when I give instructions I try to think of every question a person might have in regards to the instructions in order to be sure the instructions are very thorough. So when something is not done according to the instructions I gave, it triggers my control freak defense mechanism that says “see, I knew I should have just done this myself if I wanted it done correctly,” even though I know I would have been overextending myself which would have only lead to further complaints. It’s even worse when you know the reason the task was incorrect is because the person did not read all of the detailed instructions I took time to make clear for them.

I was thinking to myself, I know that God is perfect and patient, but how many times have I taken that for granted?

The bible tells us to

“…Present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.”

Romans 12:1

Now, one could interpret this literally as it pertains to the condition of your human body. But for the sake of today’s devotion, let’s think about this in a broad sense. As Christians, we are supposed to make ourselves available to be of service to God at all times, living our lives in perpetual sacrifice to him. This includes sacrificing our time. Sacrificing time, as a Type A person, is a big issue for me but I’m understanding how important it is to dedicate time to doing the work of God’s will, as it is our purpose, and doing it in a way that is holy and acceptable.

It does take a lot of time spent with God to properly understand the instructions we’re given. How many times have we cut our prayer time shorter or skipped a study session in order to make more time to do something else we had planned to do? This is the exact same thing as the very scenario described above. If you have accepted God as the authority in your life, you are saying that you will complete the assignments given to you in a way that is acceptable to God. But we shortchange God when we do not sacrifice time to spend with God. We cannot read all the instructions or know what will be acceptable to God, if we do not take time to get to know God and spend time learning what his will is for our lives. We can’t say a quick prayer in the morning or bless our food on its way to our mouths and think that will be enough to complete our assignments well.

This does not mean God will have the same reaction to us that we have when someone doesn’t follow instructions.  However, with any relationship, you don’t want to be the partner who can’t be trusted to follow through. Think about how disrespected we feel when someone cuts corners on something that is important to us. So today, let’s reflect on our sacrifice. Are we truly concerned with the quality of effort we are putting forth toward our purpose? Are we truly concerning ourselves with our efforts being acceptable? Or are we just giving God what we have left after we’ve done all the other things that are important to us?